By Doc Edge | Posted: Wednesday October 14, 2020

We encourage students enrolled in a New Zealand school or tertiary institute to enter their short documentaries in the Doc Edge Schools Student Short Documentary Competition

These might be films made as part of student course work, as part of an NCEA assessment, or as a class or passion project.

Films need to have been made between 15th January 2020 – 28th February 2021.


Secondary (New Zealand students in Years 9-13).
A documentary film of up to 7 minutes in duration.

Tertiary (New Zealand students enrolled in tertiary study).
A documentary film of up to 17 minutes in duration.

Prizes: Each category has a total prize package of $1500. 

1st Prize = $1000
2nd Prize = $300
3rd Prize = $200


· You must have been attending a secondary school or tertiary institution while making / completing your film

· You must get written permission from everyone who appears on camera (Make a note of anyone who should be credited along the way)

· Good quality sound, and pictures will put you in a better position than other entrants. (Sound with consistent levels is especially important)

· You cannot use copyright footage from other movies unless you get permission

· Make sure you take lots of photos (stills) while in production and behind the scenes. This will help us promote your film.

· For any music you use, you must have written permission to use the track, or use royalty free music from sites like: Bensound, Audio Network, Premium Beat Royalty Free Music, or you can make your own if you have some musical friends

· Please do check your credits and titles for spelling errors before you submit

· Make sure you check all of our terms and conditions before entering.


While we do not like to constrict creativity, here are some tips that will put you in a better position for selection for our finalists programme.

· We are looking for social justice, environmental or ‘issues’ themed documentaries

· We tend to avoid selecting documentaries with voiceover or “voice of god” narration

· Participatory documentaries (where the directors insert themselves as a character in their own documentary) are difficult to pull off, and we tend not to select these.

· Before you choose your subject, do a little research to see if there have been many / any recent documentaries produced on the same topic. Originality is a big plus.

· Creativity and experimentation is welcome, but do not let this detract from a strong narrative in your film. Animation is also welcome.

· Character driven documentaries with a clear story are often more successful. IE following one person on their quest to tackle a social issue, and their emotional rises and falls as they have triumphs and failures.

· Emotional moments are gold but should not be contrived.

· Having your subjects involved in action as well as just being talking heads is very important. We literally want to follow them on their journey, rather than just sitting down for a chat with them. Emotional engagement and stakes tend to rise using this technique.

· Music rights, on screen participant rights are all important to clear and have on standby


· You must have the right to use all interviews and materials in your documentary.

· Anyone included in your film must sign a release form (and if they are under 18 years old they will need to get their parents/caregivers to sign as well).

· On your application form you MUST tick “Student Project” in the specifications section (See Above) and let us know if you’re a first-time film maker.

· Don’t make your film public on youtube or the internet while waiting to hear if you’ve qualified, or before your screening, otherwise it will be disqualified. You can however make a private link on youtube or vimeo for us to view as part of your application.

· It’s ok to have screened in other overseas festivals and to family, friends and crew, but not at other New Zealand Festivals, and not online.

· You only need to submit to Doc Edge ONCE via film freeway to the student tertiary section. From there, the finalists for the competition will be put forward to the main festival for consideration.


Check back on our website in September for more information, and a submission web link.